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Hi all. I’m back after a long time. I just finish a short movie and you don’t know what a pain I had, writing the dialogues in English. Anyway, is there any other word than “abnormal” which is negated with prefix AB? Of course there are obscure words like “abnegate”, but I mean the words that one really uses.

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Abdicate, abrogate, abrupt, absolute, abduct. That's just a handful I can think of offhand.

Dave August 26, 2004, 3:20am

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Have coffee with me, Dave. Which one of the words you mentioned is an English word negated by the prefix "ab-"? Most of the ones you mentioned have "ab-" joined to some Latinate root. "Abrogate" is an example; "rogate" commonly survives only as a root (rogation, surrogate) though it may have a special, technical use in, say, law.

I'll think of some others. Offhand, the only one that springs to mind is "abreaction," which basically means a bad reaction to a medicine or treatment (like an allergy, or a rash caused by bandage adhesive).

speedwell2 August 26, 2004, 5:04am

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As a consultation of the dictionary shows, the prefix "ab-" means "away" and thus is not technically a negating prefix. The word "abnormal" was originally "anormal" and became altered in the 19th century by comparison with the Latin "abnormis", meaning "monstrous".

It is generally easier to find these things out by looking in a book than it is by asking a bunch of self-appointed "experts" on the internet.

Abbie August 26, 2004, 5:42am

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Okay, I figured after I posted that I had misread the question. So much for skim-reading.

Black, no sugars, thanks, Ms Speedwell. :)

Dave August 26, 2004, 8:14am

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Absent is the easiest one I can think of. The "-sent" being the same root you find in words like "sentient".

Jutta August 26, 2004, 8:14am

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Abbie, the whole Internet is nothing but the combined utterances of millions of self-proclaimed experts.

Get over it.


speedwell2 August 26, 2004, 12:35pm

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Abbie, we are just a bunch of dumb-ass red-necks, we have never saw a book in our lives. You should consider the fact that not everyone is as smart as you are.

Does anyone have a comment on Jutta's. Is "absent" a right example?

goossun August 26, 2004, 1:15pm

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Oops. Is there a history with this lovely Abbie lady I am unaware of...?

Dave August 26, 2004, 2:03pm

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Dear speedwell,
I am at a loss. Isn't the act in the reaction of abreaction a Latin root anymore? Isn't the whole thing Latinate?

jeudi August 26, 2004, 9:33pm

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Jeudi, yeah, the whole "ab-" thing is Latinate. I was so interested in this question I hauled out my dictionary at home and looked at the words beginning with "ab."

Almost all of the common words I could find are variations on Latin words. A few are, surprisingly, variations on German words. ("Abreaction" is a synthetic-Latin translation of a German word meaning "catharsis," and turns out to mean what you do when you're on the couch at the psychologist's office. My kitten's vet must have made her usage up.)

By little more than coincidence, really, some of the "ab-" words LOOK like "ab-" plus an English word, and the meaning gives no clue to their Latinate origins. A terrific example is the word "abuse," which currently has the same meaning as "misuse" (prefix "mis-" plus English word "use"). But "abuse" comes from a Latin word that was formed from "ab-" plus the root of "utility."

Incidentally, "Abbie," used in the phrase "Abbie Normal," is a joking reference to the word "abnormal" itself. I don't know where it came from originally (probably from a comedian's routine or a popular movie). Google the phrase to see how it is used in various websites (most notably as the name of a punk rock band at

speedwell2 August 27, 2004, 4:36am

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There is a gag in Mel Brooks's brilliant Young Frankenstein, when the hunchback Igor is talking about the brain he and the doctor just put in their monster: "It belonged to someone called -- what was it now? -- Abbie something, um, Abbie Normal."

Dave August 27, 2004, 5:43am

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Oh yeah, "abuse" why did it skip my mind? "Mr. Speedwell" got my question quite write. I was looking for the words that could get "ab" as prefix. Use-abuse, normal-abnormal etc. no matter what the root is. I was just wondering if a "rule" could be applied for it. (ex. if we could negate our friend Abbie with an ab prefix or he is already negated and if he turns out [HIV] positive then we can just call him Bie!)

But a new thing, I always thought that misuse and abuse meant two different things, don't they? I thought that misuse is like you have too much money and you couldn’t use it proper whereas abuse is like you abuse my credit card. (I just had my credit cared stolen and I got the new one today. There is a little text that reads "Misuse is a criminal offence" and I was thinking it should've been abuse instead of misuse. I was actually wondering if it wasn’t a Danglish thing.) Huh? What you think?

goossun August 27, 2004, 12:57pm

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Dear speedwell,

Did I hear you correctly? Did you say that "use" is an English word? Would you bee disagreeing with the holy MW that states :"Middle English us, from Old French, from Latin usus, from uti to use"?

jeudi August 28, 2004, 12:43am

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Jeudi, as a native English speaker who is now a correspondence secretary and technical writer, and has formerly been a proofreader and copyeditor, I can assure you with the greatest confidence that English speakers USE the word every day and have been for time out of memory.

speedwell2 August 29, 2004, 6:54pm

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I thought the "ab" discussion revolved around the question: are there English words where the prefix "ab" negates an Anglo-Saxon root? It seemed to me that when you spoke about "English words", it was actually a shorthand for "English words of Anglo-Saxon origin", as opposed to "English words borrowed from Latin". But as you say, if the natives use it, whether it comes from Anglo-Saxon or was borrowed from Latin, French or Hebrew, it's English. My teasing you about "use" was meant to point up that "abuse" is a Latinate compound too. Shall we not conclude that in English, there are no "ab + Anglo-Saxon root" compound?

jeudi August 29, 2004, 8:50pm

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Jeudi, that's interesting. The way I read it was that Goossun was asking for English words (i.e. words commonly accepted as part of modern standard English) that used the prefix "ab-" to form a word that meant something opposed to the meaning of the original English word.

However "abuse" was originally derived, it remains the case that "use" is a modern English word and that "ab-" is used to "negate" it.

What I do see some trouble with is that "negation" is particularly loosely defined for the purposes of this thread. Normally you'd think of the "opposite" of "use" as, say, "neglect" or "put away."

speedwell2 August 30, 2004, 4:45am

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Just wanted to point out something I just noticed from Dave's original reply: "absolute" is a good example. Not-solute, not a solution, unmixed, pure. Am I right?

StFiend September 3, 2004, 1:08pm

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What about 'about'?
are you about?
Yes, I'm not out. Ab-out.

Belinda September 10, 2004, 8:25am

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Those are good ones. This would make a good game, wouldn't it. :)

Finally getting around to answering Goossun's question about "abuse" and "misuse:"

Both words currently mean a wrong or bad use. In some particular cases, though, the distinction still remains, with "misuse" sorresponding more closely to "wrong" and "abuse" to "bad." The best example:

"My doctor misuses prescription drugs" could mean that the doctor could, for example, be prescribing the wrong drug for the illness, or it could mean that he often forgets to take his own medicine at the proper time.

"My doctor abuses prescription drugs" would mean that he uses drugs to get high, and that he is likely to be addicted to them.

speedwell2 September 12, 2004, 5:35am

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OK Speedwell, in that case if I were a doctor I would rather be an "abuser" than a "misuser!"

Any comment on Belinda's "about?"

goossun September 12, 2004, 5:51am

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According to the M-W, the etymology is:
"Etymology: Middle English, from Old English abutan, from a- + butan outside ".
So there seems to be a privativ English "a" prefix, akin to the Latin "ab", coming from the same Indo-european stock?

jeudi September 12, 2004, 8:54pm

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some people here seem to be confused between "de-", "un-" and "ab-" ..

"de-" meaning "to remove" - descale, desensitize
"un-" meaning "not" - unnatural, unreal
"ab-" meaning "away from" - abduct, abnormal

absolute means "away from the solution" i.e not mixed or blended .. i.e pure

abuse means "away from use" i.e the thing you abuse has no defined use .. i.e it is not to be used.
misuse means "incorrect use" i.e used for a function it is not designed for, or used in an incorrect manner ..

this it is child ABUSE not child MISUSE ..

about is not an example .. if it meant "not out" then why not just say "in" :P .. but even if you went down the hard route it would more naturally be "unout" rather than "about" ..


british October 24, 2004, 12:11pm

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steve September 30, 2005, 3:21pm

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Speedwell, et al., I have to take issue with many of your comments. Nowhere in the original question is there any indication that the root without the ab- need be a word at all, English or otherwise. Gossun only referred to "abnormal", the combination including the ab- as an English word. He never referred to "normal as being a word, nor did he state any requirement that the root portion be a word of any kind. If Gossun had written " there any other word than “normal” which is negated..." (which he did not) then your comments would make sense. Actually, his original question is not very well formed. Abnormal isn't "negated with" ab-; it is a "negation with" ab-. Perhaps that makes the original question somewhat ambiguous. Regardless, Dave's original response was quite correct. This would be true even considering that Gossun agrees with you about the intent of his original question. Whatever he intended, that's not what he asked. Furthermore, what's all this talk about Latinates, Anglo-Saxon, Old French, Hindustani, Klingonese, etc.? An English word is an English word regardless of its origin. The very idea that the original question should be limited to words of Anglo-saxon origin makes absolutely no sense.

porsche August 26, 2009, 1:07pm

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Good point, Porsche, many responders didn't really address the question.

However, Abbie was also correct. The prefix "ab" does not negate the root word it is attached to. It means "from," "away," or "off."

"Abnormal" means "deviating from the normal or average." Thus there are degrees of abnormality, degrees of distance from the norm.

This should be obvious to all internet users.

douglas.bryant August 26, 2009, 5:00pm

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Yes     No